Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Writing for NaNoWriMo is like Performing Improv

So it’s day two, and you’ve gotten a good start yesterday. Or, perhaps you still haven’t started yet. Here are some of my tips for you, to get you writing. Because, really, writing for NaNoWriMo is a lot like performing improv. It takes guts. It takes moxy. It takes energy, creativity, and support.
Here are some specific ways that I can use the rules of Improvisation to improve your NaNo, or at least to help you reach that 50k goal:

If you haven’t started yet, START. And start in the middle of the action, or in the middle of the story. Somewhere with high-tension will get people interested and suck them into your world. You can always flashback to the beginning later, or forget about it – your choice. People will understand the narrative as it unfolds around them.

Do you want to reach the 50k mark faster, or have you struggled with your word count in the past? Keep writing! Be descriptive! Describing the environment can take up a lot of words. Even if that’s not your regular style, you might find that you like some of it, and if not, you can always edit it out in December. You can also think of this as “and then…” and then this happened, and then that happened…

Make bold and strong choices. Don’t be afraid to do something out-of-genre to your character(s). Don’t be afraid of MOVING THE PLOT FORWARD. In fact, this brings me to my next point:

Don’t be afraid. Just do! Write with reckless abandon. NaNoWriMo is the perfect time to experiment and try something new.

Okay, now for this, I don’t mean actually going back and editing your first draft in the middle of writing it – on the contrary. To “wipe” in the middle of an improvisation set is to run across the front of the stage, essentially wiping it clean of actors and story, to start fresh with a new idea. How to apply this to your NaNo writing? Simply this; if you find that you are getting bored with the scene you are currently writing, or you feel like you’re writing yourself into a hole, and you don’t know how you’re going to get out – just stop, and start writing a different scene! Don’t be afraid to use the *** kind of symbol, to take the action somewhere else. The scene you were just writing can either be resolved off-screen, or you can always go back to it later, maybe when a better idea has struck you, or after a new character has been introduced, who might further the scene in some way.

If you feel it in your gut that something should be a certain way, it probably should. Go with it, even if it doesn’t follow certain conventions. Especially if it involves “wiping” as explained above.

Don’t worry about spelling and grammar so much. That’s what December is for. If you keep going back every 5 seconds to correct something, you’re going to lose that momentum. Besides, even if you’re anal about spelling (like I am) many programs you’re typing with today will auto-correct them for you. EVERY time I’ve typed the word “Improv” it tries to make it “Improve”, for instance. In the case of you notebook writers, just don’t look at it. No squiggly red line appears under YOUR spelling mistakes, so it should be less irksome. And if it’s still haunting you, turn the page, and get on with your writing!

Remember those bold choices you made earlier? Well don’t drop them. If you’ve decided that a character only has one leg, and gets angry when it’s pointed out, stick to it. Every character has a THING, and they should each stick to it. This isn’t to say that they can’t transform at some point, when it makes sense for them, but until they’ve “seen the light” or whatever, keep their thing going! This also goes for styles of narrative. If you started off writing like ye olden faery tale, keep it going that way – even if your novel is SET IN SPACE. Whatever your thing is, STICK TO IT!

Okay, so while this one isn’t really a “rule” of improvisation, it’s something that I’ve found helps me perform my best. When I react in character to the other people in the scene EVERYTHING matters. Don’t forget that someone just mentioned they have a son. Have the characters react to that-even if it’s in a small way, or is a somewhat delayed reaction. If everyone is constantly reacting to EVERYTHING, you’ll find yourself writing more words than you thought possible!

If you’re not having fun, why are you doing this? Go away, relax, take a breather, play some videogames, do something else that is fun for you, and come back when you’re in a mindset to write. When that creative urge is tugging you, come back to the PC or paper, and get writing!

In improvisation, you’re never doing a set alone. There’s always someone else there to back you up in your scenes. If you’re starting to struggle, or a scene is lagging, at least one of your other performers will jump in and rescue you. For NaNo, it’s the same. There are plenty of people here on the forums, and in the chat, who are here for you. There are specific forum sections to help you with grammar, ideas, genres, and more! We have links to free downloadable programs to help you out. There’s a mentorship program for people who want extra help. We’re all here for you, like a family.

Well, that’s it from me! HAPPY WRITING!

(This post was a donation of 993 words.)

(Also, is it weird that I was singing the TETRIS theme while finding the links and formatting this post? AH, but that's all part of NaNo. Don't be afraid of going crazy. All artists are inherently at least a little crazy, anyway! Haha! HAVE FUN!)


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